Sketching The Arb

Last weekend we had a wonderful sketchcrawl with Urban Sketchers Twin Cities at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (the “Arb”). Unlike our usual 3-hour events, our fearless organizer designed a 7-hour event that took us all around the Arboretum’s many gardens and acreage. The weather was hot, but not unbearable. Here’s a link to the Arboretum if you want to read more:

I brought both large and small watercolor Moleskines, not knowing what I’d want to sketch. As it turned out, there was literally too much to sketch, so I looked for things that grabbed me. My first sketch was of a beautiful hanging flower, the Angels’ Trumpet. Located in a garden in the shade outside the visitor center, I was struck by this plant’s beauty.

Greenish-yellow pods hung down from this shrub-like plant, and exquisite pinkish flowers hung down. My sketch does not do them justice. Here’s a photo of my sketch and the plant:

I next meandered into a kitchen Herb Garden. Dill and other herbs were grown in borders, along with other perennials. I liked the little roofed tower, so decided to sketch that as well.

After lunch, I went to the Sensory Garden. Rows of white chairs were set up for a 4:00 wedding, and since it was around 1 pm, I figured I had enough time to get in a sketch. There was a beautiful water feature, with dripping water, and it was in the shade, so I decided to sketch that. There was a breeze and it was comfortable enough. The tinkling sound of splashing water was super-relaxing…

Our group was gathered to look at one another’s sketches, when a huge black coach bus pulled into the parking lot. The wedding party had just arrived, and a bride in a white dress and a groom in a gray tux hopped out from the bus. I think they were off to take pictures. We had finished there just in time!

Next, our group drove to the Sculpture Garden. Some friends and I wandered down a trail and found the Shrub Rose Garden. I circled this enormous garden, complete with a water feature in the middle and bronze statues of children on the rim. The only problem was, there was no shade in the middle. So I set up along the edge of a treeline. It was hot and sticky by now and I was getting tired, but I was determined to get a good sketch. I used my larger Moleskine. I liked the value difference between the treeline edge in the back of the garden, the dark and light greens grabbed my attention. I thought carefully about my sketch and what I’d put in it. I wanted the bronze statues to be a central part, and the roses weren’t all in bloom, so there wasn’t as much color as I had hoped. As I was working, a few people came by the park bench. One man stood and looked at his phone. I wanted him in the sketch to give it some human element, so I got him quickly sketched but realized I wouldn’t have room for his feet! Oh well. And yes, the water really looked that dark and murky!

After driving further, we stopped at the Farm property of the Arb. They had areas of vegetables, but also a large barn and silo. And near the parking lot, an open wall with garden tools, including what looked like an old-fashioned green trike with a gardening bucket in back. I liked the trike, so sketched that down in the corner. Then I had the rest of a blank page (I was using the large sketchbook again), and liked the scene in front of me– the barn, silo, and garden. I kept lines fairly loose. I was running against the clock, so painted only part of the barn, and worked quickly.

After being on a time line all day (driving to each site, finding stuff to sketch, and having about 1 hr. to 90 minutes to sketch at each stop), I was tired, but happy with my day of sketching. I find time deadlines to actually be good– they help me sift through the visual information quickly. No time to fuss, or hem and haw about what to add and what to leave out of a sketch. You have to decide quickly and get going!

After each stop, our sketch group got together, laid out our books so we could view one another’s drawings, then we took a group photo and hopped in the car to go to the next stop. It was a wonderful day, and I enjoyed sketching the Arb very much!

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